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In 2013, Chicago considered a new K-12 curricula on sexual health that would include age-appropriate education on recognizing when people did not want to be touched, but conservatives bemoaned it as “sex ed for kindergarteners.” Overall, however, Cushman is optimistic that schools are interested in teaching students more about what healthy relationships look like, not so much because of the #Me Too movement, but because middle school and high schools have been paying attention to conversations on preventing campus rape.
Cushman said the real barrier for educators is often a lack of time to include all of the content they would like in a sex education curriculum because schools are focused on standardized tests and developing reading and math skills.
“Schools are devoting more time and energy to curricula that encourage empathy and compassion, and that’s what we’re really talking about here.
There are a lot of tie-ins across sex education and social-emotional learning,” Cushman said.“We know that people who adhere to more traditional ideas about gender roles and traditional ideas about masculinity and femininity have more negative outcomes, both on things like perpetrated intimate partner violence, but also on greater risk for STDs and unintended pregnancy,” Cushman said.
“Those things are amenable to change so those programs can actually help shift young people’s attitudes toward more equitable ideas about gender and power in relationships.” It’s also important for sex education programs to focus on what may seem like small age gaps in relationships to students, parents, and other adults, since that age gap can be easily exploited in an abusive relationship, Cushman said.
It topped finalist entries from Florida (2), Michigan and Texas.
1st Runner up: “Too Easy” from Centennial High School in Port St.